I have become aware that Butch Warren, a bassist who was a Washington native, who five decades ago was a vital part of the New York City and a regular on Blue Note album dates along with pianist Sonny Clark and drummer Billy Higgins (think about some sessions by Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Booker Ervin, Jackie McLean, Kenny Dorham and McCoy Tyner), was playing regularly in the area, although having a number of issues including spells of homelessness. Pianist Peter Edelman has been part of groups that featured Warren at Washington.
Giovanni Russonello, at the excellent DC jazz website, www.capitalbop.com had a review of several recent releases by DC area artists and Warren’s first date as a leader, French 5Tet (Black & Blue) was one of them. The album was a result of French saxophonist Pierrick Menuau, in Washington for a concert at the French Embassy, catching Warren playing at a club and then putting together a brief tour of France including a a public concert for Radio France that was broadcast and then issued on French 5Tet.
Menuau and Warren are joined on this recording by Jean-Phillipe Border on guitar, Pierre Christophe on piano and Mourad Behammou on drums. The recording has the same flavor as those classic Blue Note recodings warren was just a part of. it opens up with Warren’s bass on the original, A Little Chippie, before Menuau displays a strong fluid tenor sax style (and like Dexter Gordon inserting some musical quotations) followed by some fleet guitar as the rhythm section swings. Hank Mobley’s East of The Sun follows with nice cymbal work by Benhammou, and then the classic ballad Laura with more lovely tenor (Menuau perhaps sounding some like Long Tall Dexter).
There are three more Warren originals and one might wonder whether the performances titled I Remember Monk and Eric Walks are correctly titled. The tune labelled I Remember Monk is somewhat suggestive to these ears of Mingus’ So Long Eric, while Eric Walks is a swinging performance that kicks off with terrific guitar before another nice sax solo. Really nice sax in the vein of Booker Ervin on I Remember Monk. I enjoyed the other original, Barack Obama, apparently a more recent composition of Warren with a samba tinge. Giovanni Russelonello was disappointed in the performance, and references a performance by Warren with a group that included pianist Freddie Redd (another Blue Note legend) and drummer Nasar Abadey, noting “With a talented three-saxophone line carrying Barack Obama’s melody, the band sauntered and flowed, swinging deeply and proudly through the brief “B” section.” I certainly appreciate Russenello’s perspective and one certainly echoes his hope that Warren have a chance to record it again. It was Kenny Dorham who took Warren out of Washington and to New York and after a brief statement of The Theme, the 5Tet concludes with the classic Blue Bossa, another classic Warren played on the original. This is a thoroughly enjoyable recording and it is worth seeking out. It certainly is heartening that it is available and perhaps a domestically produced follow-up will be coming shortly.
The Capital Bop review is at http://www.capitalbop.com/2011/05/12/album-review-the-debut-of-a-legend-butch-warrens-french-5tet/. Information on ordering can be found at http://concertsonthehill.info/bw/index.html and for US orders, $18.00. One can send payment through PayPal to the address firstname.lastname@example.org. One can also send email questions to that address and request an invoice and it is available at amazon but perhaps through the same source.
As a bonus from youtube, here is Butch Warren and his French FTet performing Blue Bossa, from his tour of France.
Capital Bop will be presenting The DC JazzLoft series as part of the upcoming DC Jazz Festival, http://www.capitalbop.com/dcjazzloft/ which folks can support through Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/capitalbop/capitalbops-dc-jazz-loft-series-at-the-dc-jazz-fes.